Only two NFL teams remain without a Head Coach, and that is the Arizona Cardinals and the Jacksonville Jaguars. And now that teams like the Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns have found their guy, we have a better understanding of the direction they might go, as opposed to the team being coach-less. Here is a potential mock draft of what we think teams will do in April’s upcoming draft.
We can assume that Kansas City takes Geno Smith here, who, depending on how you evaluate this classes QBs, is the only logical QB worthy of the #1 pick. But Andy Reid could possibly keep Cassel or pursue one Kevin Kolb or Matt Flynn in the offseason. Therefore, Joeckel is probably a lock as going #1 overall to Kansas City.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Jags are one of two teams who remain without a Head Coach. The next guy in command might be sold on rolling with Blaine Gabbert for the 2013 season. They may be ready to go in another direction. If so, then I believe Geno is the guy for them. There are a couple of quality QBs who can go in the 2nd or 3rd round, but Geno could be the guy for the future of the Jags. That opinion might change once they name their next Head Coach. But as of now, Geno is the guy we believe the Jags are willing to roll with.
3. Oakland Raiders: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Raiders are in an interesting position in the 2013 draft. Without a 2nd rounder and so many positions that need to be addressed, it is curious if Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen want to go with an interior lineman for their mixture of 3-4 and 4-3 packages, a pass-rusher, OG or a CB. Star is probably the best pick for the Raiders, being that they are about to go separate ways with Richard Seymour. They could possibly cut ties with Tommy Kelly as well, which might not hurt them if they draft Lotulelei, being that they have an underrated interior DL in Desmond Bryant and a 2nd year guy Christo Bilukidi, who still has a lot to prove. If they draft Barkevious Mingo or Dee Millner, we can expect them to keep Tommy Kelly and probably let Matt Shaughnessy walk. But drafting Lotulelei would benefit them against the run and pass, respectively.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
Philly named former Oregon coach Chip Kelly to the same position on January 16th. Kelly hasn’t brought any of his coordinators along with him yet, and it will be interesting to see whether he moves Philly to a 3-4 defense or not. If he does, Jordan might be best for the job, given Kelly’s familiarity with him, as opposed to going with Mingo or Werner, who would also be a good fit. But given Jordan’s pass-rushing ability, he also showed skill that he can cover receivers and TE’s, which was quite impressive for a guy who stands at 6-7 and weighs over 240 pounds. If they do go to a 3-4 defense, also expect them to either draft a NT in the later rounds or find one via free agency.
5. Detroit Lions: Dee Millner, CB, Alabama
It isn’t a secret that the Lions’ secondary needs help. And what are they gonna do about disgruntled DE Cliff Avril; let him walk or give him a huge contract? Whether he leaves or stays, secondary should be the first concern they address, and Millner is probably the best DB in this draft out of all corners and safeties available. He will be huge for their secondary and will be thrown in the fire right away.
6. Cleveland Browns: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
An already confident defense will have even more confidence with the addition of a guy like Mingo. Phil Taylor is the anchor on that defensive front, and Jabaal Sheard is one of the most underrated DE in the NFL, and he led the team with 7 sacks last season. Juqua Parker and Frostee Rucker combined for 10 sacks. The addition of Barkevious Mingo will make an already good DL rotation great. He brings the swag, plays with a non-stop motor and is as confident as they come. They could have went QB here, but Weeden is serviceable enough of a guy for Norv Turner and new HC Rob Chudzinski to work with. Cleveland will be an interesting team in 2013.
7. Arizona Cardinals: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
A lot of people think Matt Barkley would be a perfect fir for Arizona. Some think Tyler Wilson will be a great fit. Personally I don’t think either QB would be a great fit for Arizona. The only other team after the Jags who remain without a Head Coach could use a pass rusher, being that their MLB led the team in sacks in 2012. Granted, Daryl Washington isn’t your average MLB. He is the complete package. Calais Campbell can line up anywhere on the DL in that 3-4 defense Ray Horton has coached up. Jarvis Jones would be a great fit for the Cards, and he and Sam Acho would be a good tandem. Acho is as good against the run as he is a pass rusher. Jones can be as good, if not better than Acho. He would be great on the Cards, in the division that plays the best defense among all eight divisions.
8. Buffalo Bills: Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse
After Geno Smith, I think the best QB available will be Tyler Wilson. But being that the Bills hired former ‘Cuse coach Doug Morrone, I think Morrone makes a push to get his guy with the eighth overall pick, similar to the direction Miami went in drafting Tannehill in the 2012 draft. With Bjoern Werner still on the board, though, Buffalo could go in that direction. And we still aren’t sure yet if they are moving back to a 3-4 defense, which might not be the best idea for the organization. But the gut choice is they go with Nassib here with the 8th pick over Tyler Wilson.
9. New York Jets: Damontre Moore, OLB/DE, Texas A&M
It is as evident that the Jets go with a pass rusher in this draft as it is the Lions are going to address their secondary. Being that the Jets pick 9th, a lot of the top pass rushers might already be off the board. They recently moved to a 4-3 defense away from Rex Ryan’s traditional 3-4. But rumor has it they’ll go back to the 3-4 in 2013. If they do, Moore will probably be a better fit for them over Bjoern Werner, who plays best with his hand in the dirt, as opposed to being an OLB pass rusher in a 3-4. However, after the huge dilemma with Mark Sanchez, they could go with Tyler Wilson here and work towards moving away from the Sanchez era. Given his cap, it’ll be bad for the Jets if they keep him or release him. They save the most money by trading him, but that is a problem in itself. Who’s going to trade for a guy to be a backup and pay him around $10 million?
10. Tennessee Titans: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabma
The Titans can use some cornerback and Safety help, but they could also use help in protecting Jake Locker if they plan on making him their long-term solution at QB. He was often injured in 2012, and I don’t see that changing unless they tighten up that OL. Warmack is probably the best G available, other than his college teammate Barrett Jones. Tennessee could go with either guy here, but Warmack might be the best option for the confidence he carries, which matches that of RB Chris Johnson and the majority of the rest of the Titans squad.
11. San Diego Chargers: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
San Diego needs a Tackle, or two, to help protect Phillip Rivers. Eric Fisher might be the best Tackle available after Joeckel, but I can see SD going with Fluker over Fisher for playing at a more experience level in a better college conference, as opposed to Fisher. SD could also use a RB, given Ryan Mathews’ durability issues. But first, their biggest concern is the Tackle position, which we expect new HC Mike McCoy to address.
12. Miami Dolphins: Keenan Allen, WR Cal
Miami should still consider signing a veteran in the offseason who could potentially be their #1 WR, like Greg Jennings or Dwayne Bowe. Drafting Keenan Allen would also be a great option for them, as well as keeping Bess and Hartline around. Those will be great weapons for QB Ryan Tannehill to have, as he proved he was worthy of a 1st round selection in 2012, given the limited weapons he had, and still managed to win 7 games.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Johnathan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
The Bucs were stout against the run in 2012, but horrible against the pass, to say the least. With Millner off the board, Banks is ARGUABLY going to be the best CB available. Other quality guys are Xavier Rhodes and Logan Ryan. Given Banks’ size, that’ll work best to TB’s advantage, having a guy who can compete with the bigger WRs in the league in man coverage.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Carolina could use a WR. They could also use a LB. And a S. And a DT, which is the more logical selection they should make. Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson combined for over 23 sacks this season, but yet teams were still able to run the ball effectively on Carolina. They need a guy who can help plug up the middle. They got into their groove late in the season, but an early start would have been more beneficial. Richardson and Dwan Edwards will be a decent combination on the inside, as Hardy and Johnson are on the outside. Carolina is headed in the right direction, and has been drafting smart the past few years. I think they continue the trend in 2013 and take Richardson here.
15. New Orleans Saints: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Vaccaro and Eric Reid lead this class as Safeties. Both were All Americans, and both might slip in the 1st round. Vaccaro might be the safest pick for the Saints, who could use another young guy to compliment Malcolm Jenkins, as Roman Harper has been the laughing stock of their secondary. He comes up big occasionally, but comes up short more often, and Vaccaro could be the solution to the problem in their secondary.
16. St. Louis Rams: Eric Fisher, LT, Central Michigan
With a quality Tackle still available, I think STL takes advantage of their opportunity and make the decision to choose either Barrett Jones or Eric Fisher. Despite Jones’ flexibility along the O-line, Fisher is a pure Tackle, which is what STL needs to protect Sam Bradford’s blind side. They might choose to go with Jones or a WR here, but they also have the 22nd overall pick in the draft, which gives them leisure to go with a skill player and could potentially take Johnathan Cooper at 22.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
Here is where the first inside linebacker comes off the board. After all of the controversy with Manti Te’o fraudulently stating he had a girlfriend die hours after his grandmother did and days before a football game, we might see him not go in the 1st round. Arthur Brown is probably a better LB than Ogletree, but Ogletree’s size gives him an advantage of getting drafted ahead of Brown and Te’o. All three are phenomenal football players, and the Steelers could go in either direction. But I think they make the decision to select Ogletree over the other two.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
The Cowboys are moving away from the 3-4 with Monte Kiffin as their new DC, who has traditionally ran a Tampa-2 defense in almost all of his stints in the NFL. The Cowboys are probably gonna let Anthony Spencer walk, given that he recorded 11 sacks in 2012, but is due almost $9 million if they franchise tag him, and locking him up long-term might be a problem as well. They will need a pass rusher, as we do not know how DeMarcus Ware will fare in a Tampa-2 defense. Kiffin might have to go out of his comfort zone to cater to Dallas’ best player on defense, as Ware is a 3-4 OLB pass rusher. Ansah can play with his hand in the dirt, as well as stand up on the outside. He will be a perfect fit in Dallas.
19. New York Giants: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Werner could go #2 overall to Jacksonville, depending on what their next HC will be looking for. He could also slip to #19, given the heavy dose of pass rushers entering this draft. Not taking anything away from his playmaker ability, but some teams might be more interested in drafting someone like Moore, Mingo, Jones, or even Montgomery over Werner. But don’t get it wrong, he could also go before all those guys. Something teams might not find pleasant in Werner is all of his tape shows him at LDE only. We haven’t seen if Werner can play both sides of the D-line. And with the regression of Justin Tuck, ongoing complications with Osi and bad year by JPP, which won’t happen often, NYG could use another pass rusher, as they might part ways with Osi, and soon. Werner probably is best compared to Osi, so filling in right away shouldn’t be a problem for the G-Men. But that is if he is available. So it shouldn’t come to much of a shock if he is drafted in the top 5 or top 10. But it also shouldn’t be much of a surprise if he slips to mid-teens.
20. Chicago Bears: Barrett Jones. OL, Alabama
“Da Bears” recently found their new HC in Marc Trestman, who once was considered an offensive guru. Chicago really needs to address the LB position, given Urlacher’s health concerns and Lance Briggs can’t be the only factor they have when he goes down. But Cutler was found on the ground quite often last season, which factored in to him getting hurt and throwing 14 INTs. Jones has played Center, Guard and Tackle for the Crimson Tide, and he can be used anywhere for Chicago, especially at Tackle. They could take Arthur Brown or Kevin Minter here or in the 2nd. But the OL is a concern that needs to be addressed. What better way to address it than to get a guy who can be productive at any spot?
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Arthur Brown, LB, K-State
Rey Maualuga could be a Free Agent come this offseason if Cincy doesn’t re-sign him. Burflict can fill the void that Rey left if he leaves, so that won’t be a big deal. But then, Burflict’s position will need to be addressed. Arthur Brown will be the best LB available after Ogletree, and some people might take him over Ogletree. Cincy could go with a cornerback here, but being that they might be losing a key player on their defense, Brown will be the best fit for them and can play right away.
22. St. Louis Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Sam Bradford needs targets, and he needs them in a hurry. The Rams have been playing with Steven Jackson for a while, pending trades and a release. So if they go with a RB at 16 or 22, it shouldn’t come to a huge shock. But it will be somewhat surprising, because they took Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson last season. But Pead was often injured and showed little to no promise in the time he did play. Patterson is one of the most interesting WRs in this draft class, along with Tavon Austin and DeAndre Hopkins. Patterson and Hopkins are more of an X receiver in the league than Austin. Therefore, it boils down to who Fisher thinks will be the most productive. I think he goes with Patterson here over Hopkins, given his bigger size. Can’t go wrong with either guy.
23. Minnesota Vikings: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Either way I see it, a Wide Receiver will be drafted back-to-back at 22 and 23. It can go either way, and either team could also take Terrance Williams, which, might be a bit of a surprise. But Hopkins is a better WR than Williams, in my opinion. Minnesota needs to give QB Christian Ponder some help if they want Adrian Peterson to last longer in the NFL, as he has carried that team since he was drafted. They started by taking Percy Harvin, and it’ll be just as smart of them to take Hopkins at 23.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
Rumor has it that the Colts are going to sign Canadian Football League standout DT and former USC stud Armond Armstead this offseason. That takes away one concern they need to address in finding an interior DL. Now they can focus on getting a pass rusher, as Freeney and Mathis are up there in age, and production went down in Pagano’s 3-4 defense. Montgomery, if still on the board will be perfect for the young Colts, helping improve that ailing defense.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Robert Woods, WR, USC
The Seahawks need a guy who can rush the QB and be effective against the run, as we saw how they struggled against the Falcons after losing Chris Clemons, their top pass rusher and a guy effective against the run. They might find a guy in the later rounds, free agency or use Jason Jones more, who was injured and didn’t see much playing time in 2012. That gives them the ability to find another target for Russell Wilson. Terrance Williams, Justin Hunter and Tavon Austin will still be on the board, but Pete Carroll might go with Robert Woods, who he is familiar with and will know how to use him as good as any other team will. Woods can be used on the outside as well as in the slot. Just don’t send him across the middle in traffic.
26. Green Bay Packers: Kevin Minter, LB, LSU
AJ Hawk will be a free agent this offseason, and GB will need to address the position immediately. They will get Desmond Bishop back next season, who missed 2012 due to an injury. Minter will be a good compliment in the middle in Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense. They could use another pass rusher opposite of Clay Mathews, because you don’t know what to expect from Eric Walden. But almost all of the quality pass rushers will be off the board, so another LB to fill in where AJ Hawk left off will benefit GB. They could also go with another WR, as they will more than likely be parting ways with both Greg Jennings and Donald Driver.
27. Houston Texans: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Matt Schaub in Houston, but I do think he has taken the Texans as far as he will ever take them. Schaub is good enough to get you to the playoffs, but he often comes up short the bigger the moment. I think the Texans begin their journey of finding the next guy who can carry their franchise. With Wilson still available, he will be more than good enough to sit for a year, or part of the 2013 season then fill in for Schaub. This is probably a surprise pick to a lot of people, but I don’t think Houston will invest in T.J. Yates for the long term, and they find a guy this year who they will. Wilson is better than just good for the job.
28. Denver Broncos: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Champ Bailey is old and constantly got beat deep by Torrey Smith in the divisional round of the 2012/13 playoffs. Bailey has done great against the best of WRs in the NFL, but the showcase against Smith showed that Bailey needs to move to Safety like GB uses Charles Woodson. They still have Tony Carter and Chris Harris, who are pretty good young cornerbacks. But they will need another guy, as they like to run nickel package defenses under Jack Del Rio. Rhodes can fill in immediately, and their defense might be even more dangerous than it already is.
29. San Francisco 49ers: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
Justin Smith is getting old, and SF needs a new guy who will bring out the best in Aldon Smith like Justin has. Williams and Datone Jones of UCLA are guys who should be options for SF. They can’t go wrong with either, but I think Williams will be better for the long term of SF’s success. They could also go WR here, as Randy Moss might be gone and it seems as if the AJ Jenkins draft pick was a horrible selection.
20. New England Patriots: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Wes Welker has yet to be re-signed, despite being one of the most consistent players on the Patriots’ roster the past 3-4 years. That being said, they’ll need a guy who can do as much as Welker does for the organization, or better. Austin and Welker both return kicks and can be used in the slot, special packages and on the outside. Welker has huge shoes for anyone to fill in New England, but Austin should be New England’s first attempt, and I think he will be a good choice.
31. Atlanta Falcons: Gio Bernard, RB, UNC
Michael Turner has lost a step after being such a work horse for the Falcons. Jaquizz Rodgers is a great compliment RB, but I don’t see him being a starter. Bernard, Barner and Lacy are all running backs the Falcons can choose from, but I think Bernard will be the best option for them. Bernard has a great mixture of speed and strength, which is what Atlanta needs. He also showed that that he can return kicks, which he might not be doing anymore if drafted by Atlanta, as he will be their new every down RB. Atlanta might trade up for a RB, but with Bernard, Lacy or Barner still available, they’ll be safe, because you can’t go wrong with either.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Eric Reid, S, LSU
Baltimore will desperately be searching for a Ray Lewis replacement, which will not be easy. But the news that Rey Maualuga might be a free agent should be music to the Ravens organizations’ ears. I think they make a heavy run at signing Maualuga, as they’ll be drafting late, which will mean Arthur Brown, Alec Ogletree and probably Kevin Minter will all be off the board. Ed Reed has been contemplating retirement for the last 3 seasons; and with his closest friend and teammate in Ray Lewis retiring, I think Reed decides to also hang them up for good after this season, which is why I see Baltimore taking Eric Reid. I think Manti Te’o will still be available in the 2nd round, and Baltimore should probably trade up and get him in the 2nd, which would be an even better pick for them after signing Maualuga. Their organization will never be the same without Ray, but it’ll be a great start post-Ray Lewis signing Maualuga and drafting Reid and Te’o. We shall see, though.
A couple of guys we don’t have going in the 1st in this mock are Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Cooper, Sharrif Floyd and Terrance Williams. They are all special athletes who can end up in the 1st round, and we shouldn’t be so surprised if they do. All spectators have different opinions on who they think a team should draft, then the team has an idea on who they think is best suited for their organization. Either way, this will be a very interesting draft, from start to the end.